Read the interview here.
In 2016, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram’s writing won the Narrative Poetry Contest. Bertram’s work is formally and thematically expansive and this sampling, called “Facts About Deer and Other Poems,” showcases her incredible range. In the poem “They were armed with long guns”—a poem written in ten parts—the sections move between lists, plain declarations like, “You know // where this / is going. This is // America,” and Bertram’s characteristically stunning descriptions, like when she says about the slant of light in a classroom, “It is fall // and the light from these windows behaves as / you’d expect: it rushes in. It strangles.”
Bertram teaches at The University of Massachusetts in Boston. Her first book, But a Storm is Blowing From Paradise (Red Hen Press, 2012), was selected by Claudia Rankine for the 2010 Benjamin Saltman Award. Personal Science, her third book of poems, was just released from Tupelo Press. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships. We caught up over email to talk about her new book, mentoring creative writing students, and the impact the NEA has had on her writing.